Source: Foreign Policy
“AEPAC was established in March 2021 in response to deteriorating US-Ethiopia political relations caused by [the] lack of recognition among some US officials and legislatures of the strong strategic partnership between United States and Ethiopia,” the group says on its web site. “AEPAC works to maintain and enhance bilateral relations by providing balanced and credible information. AEPAC encourages both sides to overcome short-term issues and pursue a strategic partnership that will serve the long-term mutual interest of the two nations.”
Mercury will lobby on “strengthening the organization’s reputation and identifying opportunities to further diaspora’s role in US civic society,” according to its lobbying registration, which was effective June 1. Mercury also represents the governments of Uganda and Zimbabwe as well as the transitional Government of National Unity in Libya.
AEPAC is led by a trio of Ethiopian-American businessmen: Executive Chairman Mesfin Tegenu, the CEO of drug pricing company RxParadigm in Delaware; Secretary Youm Abiy Fesseha, the president of Pennsylvania-based USA Pharma Products; and Treasurer Tilahun Degefu, president of Allied Parking Services in Philadelphia. The group says its funding comes from donor contributions.
The lobbying push comes as both Congress and the Biden administration have continued to press Addis Ababa to end the fighting in the northern region of Tigray. This week the Ethiopian government announced a unilateral cease-fire after rejecting US calls for a truce when Biden dispatched his ally Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) to the region in March.
Meanwhile the House Foreign Affairs Committee is considering a resolution from Africa subcommittee chairwoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.) denouncing human rights abuses by all sides in Ethiopia. A similar bill easily cleared the Senate in April.
AEPAC is only the latest Ethiopian-American group to join a crowded diaspora advocacy field whose divisions mirror those in the multi-ethnic country. While the Denver-based Ethiopian American Civic Council (EACC) has been taking Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed‘s side the conflict, US groups representing the Amharas, Oromos and Tigrayans have all been lobbying Washington in recent month (only the Amhara Association of America is still registered to do so).
The Ethiopian government for its part is represented by Holland & Knight, which signed a six-month, 45,000-a-month contract with the Ethiopian Ministry of Peace in March. The Ethiopian Embassy in Washington for its part declined to renew its own $35,000-a-month lobbying contract with Venable following the end of its three-month term on April 30.